Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

"If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don't."
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." - Michael Pollan

I have long admired Michael Pollan's practical, common-sense approach to food and gardening and, in fact, to most things on which I've heard him express an opinion. He has, of course, long been a champion of whole foods (the actual foods, not the grocery store), growing one's own foods when possible, and shopping at local farmers' markets when it isn't possible. He's also a champion of home cooking - cooking those real foods you have raised or purchased rather than popping a frozen, preservative-laden dinner into the microwave. The bottom line is if we all followed Michael Pollan's common-sense advice we would be a much healthier society.

As it stands, statistics will show that societies that rely on the so-called Western diet of processed foods, added fat, sugar and refined grains and heavy on the meat suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, people who consume traditional diets that are not full of such foods do not suffer these diseases at such a high rate.

Recently, Pollan has boiled all of his rules of healthy eating down to their essence and has published them in a thin volume called Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. It lists 64 principles of good eating in a easy to follow and understand format.

Pollan's rules are deceptively simple - things like doing all of your eating at a table and paying attention to what you are eating. In fact, one of the biggest expanders of the American waistline may be our habit of eating while working at our desk, watching television, or driving. Multi-tasking, of which many of us are so proud, is not really conducive to doing any one task well, and that includes eating.

And what did your mother always tell you about eating? "Eat slowly and chew carefully." Pollan agrees. He adds that we should practice portion control and eat to the point of satiation, not fullness.

At the same time, Pollan says that "Special occasion foods offer some of the great pleasures of life, so we shouldn't deprive ourselves of them, but the sense of occasion needs to be restored." In other words, every day is not an "occasion." Not every day calls for chocolate-covered cherries. In fact, Pollan is a proponent of the so-called S policy: "No snacks, no seconds, no sweets - except on days that begin with the letter S."

Over the years, Pollan's previous books on food and nutrition, In Defense of Food: an Eater's Manifesto and The Omnivore's Dilemma have contributed to the popularity of the "slow food" and "locavore" movements, as well as given added impetus to the growing popularity of backyard vegetable gardens. With any luck, this new book of his may add to that momentum.

This little book is only 139 pages long and it only costs $11, but if you read it and adopt its principles, it could have a very big impact on your life and your health. It could turn out to be about the best $11 you ever spent. I get no commission, kickback, or remuneration for saying that. Just the satisfaction of having steered you, dear reader, onto a healthier path through life.

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